This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekly newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s happening in the world of technology.
How the Supreme Court’s Section 230 ruling could end Reddit as we know it
When the Supreme Court hears a landmark Section 230 case later in February, all eyes will be on the biggest players in tech — Meta, Google, Twitter, YouTube.
The case may have different results. One potential consequence is that these companies may be forced to change their approach to community content moderation.
Many sites rely on users to moderate the community to edit, shape, remove, and promote other users’ content online—think Reddit voting or Wikipedia page edits. If these users were forced to take legal risks every time they made a content decision, experts warn it could have a catastrophic effect on online communities. Read the story in its entirety.
— Tate Ryan-Mosley
The End Extinction Campaign is trying to resurrect the drone
News: The doda bird was large, flightless, and very tasty—all of which help explain why it became extinct around 1662. Now, an American biotech company says it plans to bring the doda back into existence.
Why dado? It is the third species chosen by Austin, Texas-based Colossal Biosciences for what it calls a technological “extinction” process. The company is also working on using large-scale genomic engineering to turn modern elephants into woolly mammoths and resurrect the Tasmanian tiger.
How do they do it? The company recovered detailed DNA information from the 500-year-old remains of a drone held in a museum in Denmark. He plans to try to modify the bird’s closest living relative, the Nicobar pigeon, by turning it step by step into a dodo and possibly “wilding” the animal in its native habitat. The problem is that while it’s easy to edit bird cells in the lab, carefully edited cells are difficult to turn into a bird. Read the story in its entirety.
— Antonio Regalado
Who can become a technology entrepreneur in China?
We live in an era when the concept of an entrepreneur is becoming more and more broad. It’s often difficult to fit professions—hosting a podcast, driving for Uber, even having an OnlyFans account—into traditional definitions of employment versus entrepreneurship.
Of course, this is not an exclusively Western phenomenon; it happens all over the world. And in China, it is also changing the way people work, but with the country’s own characteristics.
Our China reporter Zei Yang spoke with author Lin Zhang about her new book, which explores the rise and social impact of Chinese people who have succeeded (at least temporarily) as entrepreneurs. Read the story in its entirety.
This is a story from China Report, Zeyi’s weekly newsletter that covers all the latest news from China. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday.
A must read
I’ve combed the web to find the funniest/important/scary/interesting tech stories for you today.
1 OpenAI has released a tool that detects AI-generated text
Unfortunately, it’s not very good. (WSJ$)
+ The tool returns a lot of both false positives and false negatives. (Axios)
+ It identified only 26% of the text written by the AI correctly. (Bloomberg $)
+ What the human brain can teach us about artificial intelligence. (Atlantic dollar)
+ Google is apparently testing its competitors ChatGPT. (CNBC)
+ Watermark for chatbots can reveal text written by artificial intelligence. (MIT Technology Review)
2 The US defense industry is fighting to arm Ukraine
Its supply chain is being strained by the huge demand for weapons. (FT$)
+ How Russia cleverly circumvents oil sanctions. (Economist $)
3 Elon Musk’s Twitter is an echo chamber
Despite his insistence that the broader platform should be more open and diverse. (NYT$)
+ Twitter is not happy about the cost of private jets. (Bloomberg $)
+ We are witnessing the brain death of Twitter. (MIT Technology Review)
4 Streamers were caught watching a deep fake of their colleagues
Non-consensual videos demonstrate the dangers of technology. (motherboard)
+ Creepy new AI app turns women into porn videos with one tap. (MIT Technology Review)
5 Covid seems to be undermining our immune system
Even mild infections seem to impair our ability to fight disease. (Slate $)
+ How to determine how healthy your immune system is. (New Scientist $)
6 Trucker tracking has not made long-distance driving any safer
However, it ushered in a new era of surveillance. (New Yorker $)
7 What awaits the dismissed technical workers?
Their skills are highly valued, especially by non-tech companies. (vox)
+ The Anonymous Blind app is the hottest place to find a job. (CNN)
+ The US is getting used to being a nation of workaholics. (Atlantic dollar)
8 Assembling iPhones at the Foxconn factory is a thankless business
The pay is good, but the grueling working conditions challenge employees every day. (rest of the world)
9 Airport protocols are getting faster
Electronic gates and biometric passports facilitate travel. (WP$)
10 It’s easier than ever to report a UFO sighting
Just run the Enigma Labs app. (Wired $)
Quote of the day
“As I continued to look, I found it hard not to laugh out loud at the absurdity of those hands and teeth.”
— Programmer Miles Zimmerman recalls a nightmarish experiment with Mindjourney’s generative AI model, which produced images of people with too many fingers and teeth, he tells BuzzFeed.
A great story
This $1.5 billion startup promised to deliver a clean fuel as cheap as gas. Experts are deeply skeptical.
Last summer, Rob McGinnis, founder and CEO of startup Prometheus Fuels, gathered investors and staged a theatrical demonstration of his technology. Prometheus promises to change the global fuel sector by pulling greenhouse gas out of the air and turning it into a carbon-neutral fuel that’s as cheap as it is dirty, conventional.
But while investors have poured money into the company, raising its valuation to more than $1.5 billion, there is little evidence that it can actually live up to its lofty claims. Read the story in its entirety.
— James Temple
We can still have nice things
A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these strange times. (Got ideas? Email me or tweet them to me.)
+ It’s fair to say that I didn’t see a turnaround in any of those anguished letters from my aunt (thanks, Jess!)
+ Some choices are too difficult to think about, and this is one of them.
+ Why can board games teach us? More than you think, actually.
+ Keep an eye out for a green comet that flies by Earth tonight — if you miss it, you’ll have to wait another 50,000 years.
+ A coffee date with these three angels is my idea of a perfect day.